Pet abuse: Women lead global push to save hidden victims of domestic violence

March 12, 2018

A group of women from the northern New South Wales city of Lismore are leading a global movement to help the hidden victims of domestic violence — pets.

At the helm is Anna Ludvik, founder of Lucy’s Project, which is a network of more than 200 domestic violence and animal welfare organisations across the world.

Ms Ludvik started the project in memory of her stillborn daughter, Lucy.

“I was so nurtured through the experience, I wanted to give back to people who weren’t nurtured and to turn my moment of agony into something beautiful,” she said.

“If we’re going to care about anyone, we also have to care about the animals they love.

“It’s not news to say animals are part of the family but we’re only just starting to ask what that really means when the family is in crisis, and we’re only just starting to see how intrinsic animals are to mental health and raising our families.”

Ms Ludvik said Lucy’s Project’s first aim was to raise awareness of the impact domestic violence can have on pets.

“We’ve seen animals as victims in many ways, the animal is often attacked instead of the human as a way of psychological control against the human: ‘if you don’t do what I say I’ll do to you what I’ve done to the dog’,” she said.

“We often see the pets victimised alongside the humans. We often see dogs sexually assaulted as a way of punishing a person or a child.

“Often the animal is not physically attacked themselves but it’s been the defender of the human.

“Sometimes we see status dogs where the animal has been used as a way to menace the human victim: ‘If you don’t do what I say I’ll set the dog on you’.”

Lucy’s Project founder Anna Ludvik runs a global network of organisations and activists dedicated to raising awareness of animal victims of domestic violence.

Lucy’s Project also assists existing frontline workers with training, fundraising and helping rehome animals and people fleeing domestic violence.

“We recognise that domestic violence victims are more likely to stay in a home if there’s nowhere for them to take their animal, we realise the increased trauma a child will go through to stay in a home and witness violence,” Ms Ludvik said.

“As a result of the work we’re doing, maybe one of those animals are safe, maybe a child isn’t going to witness the most horrific abuse against their beloved pet and maybe a woman can find shelter.”

Shelters struggling with demand

Two of the rescue organisations Lucy’s Project works with in Lismore say they’re struggling to keep up with demand to take in pets from violent homes.

Lucinda Dyason, from Kats In Traumatic Times Emergency Network (KITTEN), turns away more than 200 animals per year and said about 30 per cent in her care came from victims of domestic violence.

“It’s more common than most people imagine, and some people are embarrassed about telling you that’s what happened but you tend to sense it,” she said.

“It’s important for the animal’s sake to get them out of that situation and also to have a hope that person involved in violence can regroup and take those animals back, because in reality the people and the animal need each other and it breaks their heart to give them up.”

Originally Published by ABC News, continue reading here.